How we live is determined by how we think. How we think, in turn, is very much influenced by the questions we ask. Asking the wrong questions means thinking the wrong thoughts, and that will lead us to a mediocre life. On the other hand, asking the right questions means thinking the right thoughts, and that will lead us to a victorious life. So it’s important to have the right questions to ask.
In this post I’d like to share five questions which will help you put your life in high gear. While the questions in 4 Simple Questions to Boost Your Daily Productivity are meant to be used in the mundane level of life, the questions here are meant to be used in the “strategic” level of life. They will help you find out what truly matters to you and set your life around it. These are not the kind of questions which you answer just once and then move on. Instead, they are the kind of questions which you should ask yourself from time to time. Here they are:
1. What is the intersection between my heart’s deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger? (from Frederick Beekner via Success Built to Last)
This question will help you find your mission in life. Your mission in life should be something which is both very interesting to you and also very useful to others. Look at your multiple passions which represent your gladness, and then find the most painful problems in the world that can possibly be solved by combining those passions. This, of course, requires observation and reflection from time to time. You will find your answer to this question gets refined and sharpened over time.
2. What can I be best in the world at? (from Good to Great)
This question is more specific than question #1. After getting at least rough idea of what your life mission is, you should dig deeper to find the specific niche you should focus on in your career. Good to Great posed this question for companies to ask, but the Internet age has enabled individuals to compete globally against other individuals so you should also ask this question personally. Being able to answer this question will prepare you to face even the worst consequences of globalization.
3. What unique contribution can I give to the world?
This is actually a different way to ask question #2. Finding what you can be the best in the world at often means finding the unique thing you can contribute to the world. You may think that it’s impossible given the billions of other people that live on the earth today. But the truth is, you have talents and capabilities in several fields which – taken together – will give you a unique combination nobody else has (see Dilbert’s Career Advice for more on this). It is this unique combination that you should look for. A good way to find this combination is again by looking at your multiple passions.
4. What would excite me? (from The 4-Hour Workweek)
Tim Ferriss argued that this is the question you should ask instead of “What do I want?” or “What are my goals?”. In Tim’s words: “Excitement is the more practical synonym for happiness, and it is precisely what you should strive to chase. When people suggest you follow your ‘passion’ or your ‘bliss’, I propose that they also refer to excitement.” So find the things that will make you excited in life. What kind of experiences they would be? Those should be where you design your lifestyle around.
5. What can I outsource to others? (from The World is Flat)
In The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman wrote that companies should regularly do “chest X-ray” to find out which are their core competences and which are not. They should then focus on the core competences and outsource the rest. I believe this question should also be asked at individual level. Carefully look at the things you are doing: Is there anything that can be done better or cheaper by others? If the answer is yes, then find ways to outsource them. It will free your time and energy to focus on your core competences. As a result, you will be able to produce the highest possible value in the same amount of time.